He was referring to the battle of decades against illegal logging in North America's largest butterfly habitat. Gomez González was at the forefront of that public fight – against men who were still in huge power in Rosario. By the time we met him, he felt that he was in the air – and he spent as much time as he could with the butterflies he helped to save, with a scouring man, with an orange man scouring and black.
Last week, a month after we had lunch together, Gamez González went out of business. Investigators have not suggested any theories about what might have happened to him, but many people in Rosario have suspected that it has kidnapped loggers.
Gomez Gonzales, butterfly manager Rosario, was seen in January 13. On Tuesday, investigators questioned 53 municipal police officers about his departure, according to attorney general Michoacan. A search team, with rescue dogs, has been sent to the area. No catches have been made.
More than 60,000 people are currently missing in Mexico, authorities announced this month, one of the largest numbers in Latin America. They are considered most victims of criminal organizations. In the case of Gomez González, as was the case in most cases, his community was left alone with a story of what might have happened to him, though he was not complete. There is no evidence at present at any particular suspect.
Gomez González, 50, grew like many others in Rosario, cutting up the village's wood and selling it. It was at the heart of the local economy. Between 2005 and 2006, 461 hectares in Michoacac were lost due to illegal logging. The entire forest layers were obsolete – including the main habitat for the butterflies, which flew thousands of miles from the United States and Canada to winter there.
When environmentalists, watching the eradication of the population in real time, began to lobby for anti-logging measures, there was a lot in Rosario in arms – including Gomez González. He had grown up looking at the butterflies – his grandparents told him they had brought the soul of their ancestors – but he knew how much Rosario was reliant on his wood industry.
“We were afraid we would have to put everyone in poverty if we had to stop logging,” he told me.
But Gomez González, who served as commissioner for Rosario – the mayor of the small community – eventually came to the conclusion that the conservation of the monarchs would attract tourism to Rosario, which could be an important revenue stream. Later, the preservation was codified into law, restricting logging in Rosario initially and then being completely canceled. The Monarch federal Butterfly Reserve Fund is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes Rosario sanctuary.
Gmemez González started working alongside the World Wildlife Fund on his conservation projects. He created a Twitter account where he sent videos himself surrounded by butterflies, known as the “great show” migration and invited visitors to the Rosario monastery sanctuary. He stood still when they landed on his face and registered on his clothes.
“Since he was young, Homero is behind the sanctuary,” said Gloria Tavera, an official of the National Mexican Commission for Protected Areas.
But Tavera said she does not believe that her departure had gone in contact with her action.
“We think they are independent,” she said. She did not suggest an alternative theory of abduction.
I met Gomez González at the cafeteria in the Rosario sanctuary, where he seemed to know every server and guards and a tour guide by name. He walked around with trusted local celebrity.
In the hours before he last saw, he added more videos of the monarchs to his Twitter feed. The authorities have said little about his event.
“We can't ignore any possibilities,” said Magdalena Guzman, spokesman of the Attorney General's office Michoacán. She said that Gomez González's family recently received calls for money to return safely. They are also being investigated.
The state of Michoacan, the Human Rights Commission, says that illegal loggers could be responsible.
“We cannot ignore the work of this man, who was seen as an actor trying to preserve the monarch's forest,” said Mayte Cardona, a member of the commission.
Gabriela Martínez and Siobhán OGM added this article.